Restoring the rosters: No. 18 – Oakland

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This is part of a series of articles examining what every team’s roster would look like if given only the players it originally signed. I’m compiling the rosters, ranking them and presenting them in a countdown from Nos. 30 to 1.
No. 30 – Cincinnati
No. 29 – Kansas City
No. 28 – San Diego
No. 27 – Milwaukee
No. 26 – Baltimore
No. 25 – Chicago (AL)
No. 24 – Chicago (NL)
No. 23 – Pittsburgh
No. 22 – Detroit
No. 21 – Tampa Bay
No. 20 – New York (NL)
No. 19 – Houston
The Moneyball draft didn’t spark a revolution, and the A’s just haven’t been all that successful at bringing in new talent this decade. That said, they don’t fare badly for a team that went eight straight years without a top-15 draft pick.
Tim Hudson
Joe Blanton
Rich Harden
Dallas Braden
Barry Zito
Huston Street
Andrew Bailey
Kevin Gregg
Jared Burton
Santiago Casilla
Trevor Cahill
Vin Mazzaro
Four years ago, a rotation of Hudson, Zito, Mark Mulder, Harden and Jeremy Bonderman probably would have topped anything else these rankings have to offer. I’ve written off Mulder, though, and I don’t expect a whole lot from Bonderman going forward. At least Braden and Zito look like reliable enough fourth starters behind a quality trio, and Cahill remains one of the AL’s most promising young starters.
The bullpen has a nice one-two punch, and Gregg isn’t so bad as a third reliever. It’s just too bad the A’s didn’t come up with the money to sign their 40th-round pick from the Moneyball draft in 2002, one Jonathan Papelbon.
1B Nick Swisher
LF Andre Ethier
SS Miguel Tejada
RF Ryan Ludwick
3B Mark Teahen
C Kurt Suzuki
DH Jason Giambi
2B Esteban German
CF Travis Buck
OF Eric Byrnes
INF Bobby Crosby
INF Cliff Pennington
C John Baker
Unfortunately, Oakland’s impressive catching factory does only so much good here. Besides Suzuki and Baker, the team has also produced Ramon Hernandez, Gerald Laird and Miguel Olivo.
Also considered for the team was Dan Johnson, who has a case for starting over Giambi. Sadly, Eric Chavez seems like a weaker bet than Teahen going forward, though he’s another who could have been picked over Giambi.
If you don’t like Swisher in the leadoff spot, you can slot German and his .357 career OBP there and move everyone else down a spot.
As one might expect, defense is something of an issue here, since the A’s haven’t been loading up on toolsy up-the-middle players. Pennington is a nice upgrade over German defensively and should start when Hudson is on the mound, but I still think German is the better player. Buck offers below average range in center, and Byrnes might be the better option during those rare occasions when he’s 100 percent. Byrnes would definitely play over Buck against lefties.
There won’t be much Billy Beane bashing here. From 2000-07, the highest pick the A’s had in the draft was 16th, which was compensation from the Red Sox in 2002 and was used to select Swisher. The next highest was 21st. They weren’t passing over potential superstars to take safer college players; they simply never had a shot at the best the draft had to offer. Should they forgone spending $20 million on Esteban Loaiza and used some of that cash to try to find the next Tejada in the Dominican Republic? Of course. But they did fairly well with what they had, and if they hadn’t been particularly hard hit with injuries, they’d rank higher here.

Tigers in discussions with Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.

Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.

Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.

Blue Jays still focused on upgrading their pitching

Marco Estrada
AP Photo/LM Otero

Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.

The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.

Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.

Report: Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”

Jonathan Papelbon
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.

Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.

The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.

Minor league home run king Mike Hessman retires

NEW YORK - JULY 29:  Mike Hessman #19 of the New York Mets bats against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 4-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.

Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.

Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.